The Modern Man

The modern man appears as one who is well groomed and seems to be up to date with what’s happening in the world. He keeps up with the latest trends and can easily adapt to any situation that they find themselves in. He is fashionable and takes good care of himself. He is comfortable in his own skin; therefore he doesn’t make others feel uncomfortable. The modern man can be found anywhere in the world but the one thing about him is that he still finds it difficult to open up or express his emotions.

The man of today seems to be evolving but if you take a closer look, you’ll realise that the lessons of the past continue to cause a ripple effect. The man of today, just like the man of yesterday, still finds it hard to express himself or how he feels because he believes that it is weak. Men are very egotistical and would rather suffer in silence than to admit that they’re at a point where a little help could indeed go a long way. This inability to express oneself results in unnecessary aggressiveness and sometimes anger, which acts as a surface emotion for frustration. The constant command to bottle things up even when they’re overly heavy just because you’re a man can be frustrating.

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This then leads to substance abuse which is also known as “slow-motion suicide”. We may not realise it or simply choose to be ignorant about it, but every time we get caught up in substance abuse, we’re getting closer to our final days on Earth. However, death is not the only side effect of substance abuse, there are a lot of them, but one which we seem to turn a blind eye on is the physical abuse that comes with substance abuse, and in this case, we’re talking about abuse that is inflicted on others. It seems that once the man becomes frustrated and has handed himself over to the substance, the adverse effects are that he begins to abuse the people who are close to him. What we need to understand is that all this stems from frustration, but how can we begin to understand that if we do not give men the platform that they need to express themselves so that they can become better individuals? In the same breath, what steps have to be taken to allow men to be ‘weak’ enough to open up?

At this current moment, we are well aware of the suicide rate and its constant increase. This is the time to get involved. This is the time to be hands-on and make the necessary moves for the sake of suicide prevention. Since the death of Hip-hop Icon, HHP, suicide amongst men has come to the forefront especially in black communities, and we realise that the media doesn’t really dwell on such cases, but more people are being moved by this issue. One would think that men prefer to not to talk about things that that bother them but that’s because they have been conditioned not to have feelings. Men have been taught by those before them not to show any weakness because they are the heads of the family or simply because “what will people say?” Who has ever stopped to ask themselves: what does this man need? The lack of freedom of expression that men are subjected to leads to them believing that suicide is the only solution, and in some extreme cases, murder too. There are men that have taken their families with them simply because they could not bear the thought of their families struggling without once they’re gone. This on its own is a topic that needs to be explored further.

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Another topic of discussion is men that belong to the LGBTI community. Not all of these men are openly gay and ready to be accepted by society for their so-called flaws. Some are even fighting their “demons” because society and the church have made them believe that there’s something wrong with belonging to that community. There are men who’ve committed suicide simply because they couldn’t accept themselves as they are and they never make the news. Even those who have accepted themselves still struggle with rejection and sometimes on a daily basis by those that are close to them or those that they work with. Everyone needs a sense of belonging and without it, we become lost. It’s hard to live comfortably in a world that has you believing that you need to fix yourself. Where the LGBTI community is concerned, this is not an issue that is given much attention. We are well aware of hate crimes, which are external, but it’s time to also focus on what’s happening internally.

After reading tons of articles, trying to decipher exactly what it is that gets the man down, we came down to two conclusions: unemployment and marriage or divorce, whichever way you choose to look at it. Men being the egotistical creatures that they are, cannot be in a position where they are unable. The inability to provide for their families is one of the biggest reasons why they fall into a deep state of depression. In some cases, it’s not that they cannot provide for their families, but they themselves feel that it’s not enough and they can do better but because that’s not happening, it leaves them feeling frustrated which then results in depression. Again, because of their egotistical nature, men tend to compete a lot. They’re always on a constant strive to be the one that has more or that can do better. For a man who is unable, this causes serious harm to the ego. Speaking of competition, you would think that a man getting married would suffice as the kind of stuff men would compete over, but in some cases, this is seen as a form of emasculation. Suddenly all those things you used to do as “boys”, you can’t necessarily do because you are now someone’s husband. It’s quite interesting, but this also paves way for the second conclusion we reached: divorce.

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For many men, but especially women, marriage and a family is one of the milestones that is used to measure how successful our lives are. When all of that is taken away from you, it can feel like your whole world is crumbling right in front of you. What was once a happy home ends up in court over a custody battle and we know that in most cases the men never win. What was once your pride and joy is taken away from you and you feel like there’s nothing left to live for. It’s a heartbreaking situation that would really push one to the verge of suicide and this is such a common thing because almost 50% of marriages, and this is so shocking, but almost 50% of marriages result in divorce. It’s a cause for concern. Is it the men? Is it the women? Is it compatibility? There’s a lot that could possibly be going wrong in the marriage and maybe it’s time to take a closer look at that too because it’s more than just the inability of the man that can cause a marriage to reach its end. Divorce is one of the biggest causes of depression and maybe we need to start stressing the importance of couple’s therapy, something that needs to come before marriage is even an option.

As mental health activists, we are so quick to stress that men should seek mental health services, but in all honesty, those services are limited, especially for men. If they’re not limited, then there’s not much being said about them. We need to reach a point where we recognize that we are losing great men because of mental illness. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye on this matter and we have to take an active approach in ensuring that this vicious cycle comes to a stop. Yes, there are mental health services, but how many of them are customised for the man? How many of them actually look into the anatomy of a man and try to customise their contents or activities in such a way that it not only accommodates the man but also makes them feel comfortable enough to open up. Opening up is not a fun process but it’s needed for one to be able to advance to the next level of their lives. Talking about something doesn’t mean all that information goes in vain, something transcendental happens when we tap into that zone. The government should also be active in taking care of the man’s needs, even if they are; it’s time they did better too.

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The one thing that we need to do more of is to educate the masses about the symptoms they should be looking out for. Things like insomnia or even oversleeping are symptoms of depression. We should be alarmed and be ever-ready to take the necessary precautions. Suicidal thoughts are not the only things we should be looking out for but other symptoms as well which we will compile as a list in our next article. These can serve as a checklist to see just how well we are coping and also aid us in getting the help that we need. Every man needs that checklist so that we can begin to redefine the modern man and see him come to life.

The modern man is a man who is in touch with emotions. He knows himself so well that he avoids anything that could trigger any form of depression or anxiety. He interacts with people that are on the same level as him, people who are self-aware because self-awareness is the most powerful tool. The modern man realises that opening up actually makes him stronger. He encourages his friends to speak up and he’s always ready to lend an ear or any other form of assistance for the wellbeing of those that are around him. He does his research and is open to the idea of therapy because he understands that it’s necessary for his evolution. He’s constantly adopting effective ways to cope with daily stresses and has managed to have everything under control. It won’t be long until this man is a reality. This man probably exists, but it’s time he showed up.

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If you are on your journey to becoming the new definition of a modern man, SADAG is here to help. They have a project called ‘Real Men. Real Depression’ and boasts some of the countries strongest men who have overcome a lot of their own personal challenges. Do give them a ring on 011 783 1474. Until then, let’s keep working on becoming the new age modern man.

 

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Allow Me To Preach

Mental awareness continues to be a topic that needs to be explored especially with the current suicide rate that seems to increase every year. One thing I’ve discovered as a black man is that mental health is shunned upon in black communities and I honestly feel like the right education and an adequate amount of information would save our black brothers and sisters.

At first, I used to think that the lack of information was only an issue that was prevalent in townships but over the years, I’ve learnt that it affects everyone, everywhere, but the black community seems not to be realizing how dire it is for them to actually dwell on it. I was under the impression that just a little more information would create awareness within townships and act as guidance to the decisions they take regarding mental health issues, and I still stand by that. We need to start spreading awareness in areas where information seems to be limited, or completely change the way in which we spread information to fit the methods in which these communities prefer to absorb information.

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Black communities seem to have the wrong idea of what mental illness is, going as far as calling it “witchcraft” or a “spiritual warfare”. A mental illness can be defined as the inability to use your brain to its fullest capacity. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 3 South Africans suffer from some form of mental disorder and this is according to a SASH (South Africa Stress and Health) study which was conducted in 2003/4. It doesn’t matter how you choose to look at it, treatment is essential for managing mental disorders and there are a lot of facilities that offer free treatment, but information about those facilities seems to be limited. This is also coupled with the fact that treatment is frowned upon because it is expensive. How then does the government come in and actually make treatment accessible and affordable for everyone who is affected? The government cannot be held accountable if we ourselves do not speak up about the big elephant in the room. People are so afraid of being judged that they forget that their holistic health comes first, before everything else. The brain is the hardest working organ in our bodies; we are so quick to take care of minor headaches and stomach cramps, but nobody wants to be seen taking treatment for a mental disorder because it makes them appear “weak”. This notion has to change because, without treatment, we cannot reach a state where the whole nation is operating from a healthy state of mind. In the same breath, we cannot depend only on medication to bring us back to a balanced state of mind; we need to immerse ourselves in activities that fuel us with positivity.

The media, on the other hand, can be held accountable for the lack of information there is about mental illness. They’re so quick to report news on suicide deaths and depression but hardly anything is ever said about the solutions that are available to combat this epidemic. The media is very powerful because it shapes the way in which we think and it is this power that should be used to evoke emotion and inspire action. What we consume has a major impact on our daily decisions but it seems that no one is actually taking advantage of that. Yes, it’s okay to report suicide deaths and be active about bringing such concerns to light, but when do we start talking about solutions? When will the media start sharing the truth that the treatment of mental disorders does indeed work if applied correctly? These are questions that The Filling Station is looking to find answers to. There are a number of well-established organisations that place mental health at the forefront of their activities, but they don’t receive as much coverage from the media as possible, thus leading to people not even knowing that there are services such as free counselling and more than anything, that it’s okay to seek help. Mental health organisations should also be proactive in changing the dialogues around mental health. If there was ever a time that we needed such a change to be made, it is NOW. The media tends to focus on suicide deaths but nothing is being said about certain suicide prevention campaigns that actually exist. We need to consume positive news in order for us to prosper as a nation that is at a constant battle with the violent tide that is mental illness. When we can do this, the conversation can begin to change and social media platforms will also follow suit because we know how much power social media holds.

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

An active approach has to be taken in educating the individual about the skills they can acquire to better their condition and improve the quality of their lives. Sometimes you don’t have to be diagnosed to know that something is not okay, and even that is okay. It forms a foundation for the steps that you need to take in order for you to maintain your mental health, and also your overall health. Treatment is important, but treatment alone will not get you far, it requires commitment because mental disorders are chronic. Be committed to treatment and also be committed to learning more about your condition. Be committed to learning what your triggers are. Be committed to learning exactly what is going on with you so that you can avoid its adverse effects. Be committed to making the necessary changes to your lifestyle for the sake of your wellbeing. Where mental illness is involved, prevention is indeed better than cure. You do not have to wait until it’s too late to begin taking care of yourself, the sooner you start, the less you have to deal with on your own.

This also brings me to my next point, the importance of relating. We need to get comfortable with building relationships that allow us to be open about our daily struggles. It is okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to wallow in those feelings as well. It’s important to remember who you’re trying to become because that also guides your inner dialogue. We need to be able to rely on family and friends for support but they too need to rely on information to know how to handle us. If such information is not easily accessible then it becomes a challenge for everyone affected. We need to be able to understand what our friends are going through and accept them as they are without judgment because it is that judging alone that makes the battle so lonely. People tend to isolate themselves when they feel misunderstood, so it’s the responsibility of both parties to acquire as much information about certain conditions whether it is depression and anxiety, or ADHD and schizophrenia, it’s something that must be done. We need to actively seek information so that we can also be on the lookout for any threatening symptoms. Don’t wait until it’s too late to look for symptoms.

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On Wednesday, the 24th of October 2018, South Africa poured out their tributes to Hip-Hop Icon, HHP who had spoken about failed suicide attempts in his interviews. These are the kinds of things we should be looking out for. When HHP opened up, chances are people thought he was looking for attention or an easy way out, because when you are depressed and suicidal, sometimes you’re called “lazy”. What most people do not realise is that him opening up was on its own a cry for help. Here’s another issue that seriously needs to be touched on: Men suffering from mental illness. HHP had shown symptoms of depression and for a long time was open about them, but the societal pressures that are exerted on a man seem to be multiplying. In most suicide cases, it is the men who are casualties and it is believed that it’s because they’re more brutal in how they go on about taking their lives, with some resorting to shooting themselves or jumping off a high building as compared to women who are most likely to overdose on deadly pills. This, however, shouldn’t take away from the fact that the individual found themselves in a position where they felt that suicide was the only option they had remaining.

Suicidal thoughts are key symptoms of depression. Suicide is terminal but the thoughts should be treated like the terminal disease they are. I took some time to listen to and read some of HHP’s interviews and I picked up a theme. A lot of men, like HHP, commit suicide because of their temporary inability to meet the expectations that are set by those around them. A lot of pressure is applied to men as they are the providers and are not supposed to show emotion but rather just “get over it” and work towards providing for their families. Men are not allowed to be vulnerable because “a man doesn’t cry”. Men are conditioned to suffer in silence because the communities we’ve been raised in sham them for being weak or sometimes “pathetic”. People are so quick to say “sort yourself out” or “pull yourself together” when in actual fact, they should be finding out exactly what the problem is. When someone is down on themselves, it’s vital to be careful with the words we use because they can have one of two effects: make them feel better, or worse, it’s never in between.

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Jabulani “HHP” Tsambo

Because men are not allowed to talk about their feelings, even to their friends in most cases, this leaves them without a support system where their mental health is regarded. This is why they revert to self-harm which is another symptom of depression. They start abusing substances like drugs and alcohol just to escape whatever it is that they’re feeling at that current moment because it is taboo to express it. We need to redefine what a man is because up until we do that, we will continue to deal with the robots we create as a society, that destroy themselves simply because they aren’t allowed to be human. As parents, wives, sons and daughters, we need to go easy on the men in our lives; they’re already dealing with a lot. They deal with feelings of disappointment, failure, incapability, and we cannot keep rubbing that in. We cannot continue to dwell on their shortcomings instead we need to be creative about how we instil a sense of positivity in the men that matter to us. We need to educate ourselves about the symptoms that we should be looking out for so that we can be able to spot them. We need to support our fellow brothers and create a space that makes it comfortable for them to say “actually, I am not okay” and with that still be able to remind them that you recognize them and will play your role as a pillar until they can find their feet. Let us work together in redefining what a man is, rather than what society says a man should be.

November is the month of the man and we have some great content coming up, we start off next week with the theme Redefining The Man. Please make sure that you get all the men in your life to participate, you’ll never know how many lives you can save.

Have yourselves an amazing weekend, let’s have a discussion or a debate about this topic in the comment section below.